Over 4 years, Gov. Northam granted more than 1,200 pardons, restored civil rights to 126,000

Virginia

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — In the final press release sent by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, Virginia’s 73rd governor highlighted the number of pardons he had given in his four years, as well as how many people had their civil rights restored.

The numbers are immense: Northam, a Democrat, has granted pardons to more than 1,200 Virginians, and restored civil rights to over 126,000 people who served their sentences and “fully paid their debts to society.”

Of the people he pardoned, eight served lengthy prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.

“Virginians are forgiving people, who believe in second chances,” Northam said. “When people make mistakes, and pay their debts, they deserve the opportunity to return and be productive members of society. We can all be proud that Virginia has been able to provide thousands of deserving people the opportunity for a fresh start.”

The press release was sent by Northam’s office Friday, one day before Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) was scheduled to be inaugurated.

Governors in Virginia have the authority to grant reprieves and pardons after people are convicted. They can also restore civil rights to people who have been convicted of a felony. The Virginians who received second chances from Northam showed “a commitment to rehabilitation,” the release said.

A governor can grant simple, conditional, or absolute pardons, which do not remove the crime from a person’s record.

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Northam has acted on almost 4,000 pardon petitions, which go through an extensive review process. Some petitions may not receive a decision for several years. Northam’s number of actions, however, is “far more” than governors before him, the release said. He dedicated more staff and resources to the task of reviewing the requests.

The review team launched a user-friendly website so pardon petitions can be submitted electronically. The website allows users to check the status of pending petitions and give support or opposition for a petition.

“This allows staff to spend less time opening and sorting mail and more time reviewing actual petitions,” the release said.

In addition to pardons, Northam pushed several reforms in the process to restore Virginians’ rights. Northam made new eligibility criteria so that any state resident released from incarceration would qualify to have their rights restored.

Virginia law currently strips anyone convicted of a felony of their rights to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a public notary, and carry a firearm. However, the Consitution of Virginia allows the governor the sole discretion to restore those civil rights, excluding the right to have a firearm.

“It has been an honor to work with a Governor who is so committed to second chances,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “His actions will leave lasting impacts on countless Virginians who have moved forward from the mistakes of their past and deserve to be treated as full citizens and community members. It is my hope that future administrations continue this important work.”

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